ACF Bulletin No. 17 - 16
NATIONAL CHESS ACADEMY
Unfortunately, I've been unable to find out if funding was provided in the
budget handed down last Tuesday. Even my Federal MP. Margaret May, who has
been a tremendous help in this whole process, has not been able to find out
so far. I hope to be able to report next week.
ASIAN UNDER 16 CHAMPIONSHIPS
Rhys Rakauskas and Allinta Rose have arrived back from Uzbekistan reporting
that they had a wonderful experience, made some great new friends and were
very surprised at how important chess was in that country. Allinta scored
5/9 and Rhys 3.5/9 - a good effort by both. Well done.
This week is dominated by correspondence generated by Peter Parr's lengthy
article last week. I'm aware of more to come next week.
1. IM titles
I played in Zonals in the 'eighties, when our Zone included not just
Indonesia and the Philippines (and Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, etc.) but
also China. In the 1985 Zonal in the Philippines, which included maximum
possible representation from the strong countries (China, Indonesia and
Philippines) I made the final eight (in those days the events were held
with a preliminaries and finals structure). My FIDE rating at the time was
in the low 2200s, as was my performance in the event. Yet such a
performance was sufficient for me to finish in the top 8 spots in the Zone.
I am reasonably sure that the 1999 Zonal was stronger than the 1985,
despite the absence of China, Indonesia, Philippines in 1999. (I believe
that Johansen in '85 was nowhere near as strong as Johansen in '99, yet I
am fairly sure he finished marginally higher in the Zone in '85).
To achieve the IM title at the 1999 Zonal 6/9 was required. Only four
people achieved 6/9 or more. Dive is clearly a strong IM. Berezina showed
at the QVB event she is up to that standard (I believe she got a norm
there). I personally believe that Smerdon is already a stronger player than
most IMs I have played against, and Feldman's final score and performance
rating in the event is clearly worth the title.
That 6/9 was a tough enough target to be worthy of an IM title is
demonstrated by those who were not able to achieve it. When was last time
Johansen (5.5) performed at less than IM strength? Wohl is clearly a strong
IM (he has at least one GM norm), yet he failed to reach 6/9. Kulashko
achieved an IM norm as recently as the Elista Olympiad, yet fell half a
point short here. I was the other player on 5.5, and have achieved IM norm
performances previously. To finish in the top eight in the Zone in 1999 I
had to perform at a level at least 150 points higher than I did in 1985.
Players on the next rung down included Laird and Reilly, who have both
achieved IM norm performances before. Further down the list you get Wallace
(4.5) and Solomon (4). Surely nobody disputes their claims to the IM title
(they have demonstrated the relevant strength many times) yet they didn't
get close to the 6/9 required.
2. FM titles
I don't believe that anybody takes these seriously. Players such as Doug
Hamilton and Tim Reilly have qualified for these in the past and could not
be bothered doing the paperwork to get the title. Comparisons to Myanmar
are absurd; nobody here is manipulating ratings or trying to cheat the
system. FIDE introduced FM titles as a money-spinner; every one gained is a
hundred Swiss francs in the FIDE coffers. Every sensible organisation does
such things, the various levels of bridge administration are millionaires
because they sell master points (different colours for different type of
events) and have dozens of titles that nobody takes seriously (Grandmaster,
Life Master, State Master, National Master, etc.). The same applies here to
Women's titles; they are FIDE money-spinners which nobody takes seriously.
The fact of the matter is that nearly all of the people who achieved these
titles at the 1999 Zonal would have achieved them years earlier if they had
the opportunities that are available in, say, Europe, which are not
available in Australia. For instance, I don't believe you can be Australian
Junior champion (as, I believe, Dwyer has been) without being FM strength,
and the rest of the players on his score are at least as strong as he is.
Most of the European FMs I have played would not be rated 2000 in Australia.
Titles from Zonal 1999
Peter Parr raised some important points about FIDE titles. While all
Australians should be delighted with successes of their fellow countrymen
(I was born and live in Australia and have dual Australian/New Zealand
citizenship), patriotism should never over-ride ethics. Aside from the
most important questions of right vs wrong, from the pragmatic point of
view it is not in the long-term interest of Australia to cheapen the
reputation of our titled players. However, there is ample justification
for saying that some of the new titles are well-deserved despite the very
reasonable misgivings Mr Parr raises about other claimants. Some comments
are interspersed with Mr Parr's (marked by **. . . **) below.
**None of the 3 Australians claiming IM titles have yet scored any of the 3
IM norms usually required for the IM title or achieved a 2400 rating.**
To be fair, two of them had IM norm performances -- see below.
**It was not possible for any Australian to score an IM norm in the zonal.**
This might be due to technicalities rather than an inability to score the
usual IM norm performance standard.
**Yesterday a Soviet Master rated over 2400 by FIDE and ACF told me that he
now never wants a FIDE title. In his final norm for Soviet Master he
finished third in a field of 67 Soviet Masters and cherishes his title
gained from his high level of play. No low rated player has ever been a
Soviet Master. Vlamdimir Feldman won the event a clear point ahead of the
field with 7 out of 9 performing above 2450 and qualifying for the world
championship in Las Vegas. FIDE on this result and performance rating
should in my view confirm the IM title at the FIDE meeting in QATAR in 2
The same should apply to David Smerdon, who performed at 2469, the second
highest performance in the tournament, according to the calculations on
He lost only to the GM
but beat an IM, held two other IMs to a draw, and beat two FMs, one in a
hard-fought last round game. This means that both Messrs Feldman and
Smerdon scored 'norms' at this tournament, so both their titles should be
confirmed at the next FIDE meeting. Mrs Berezina-Feldman's score wasn't too
far off an IM norm.
But I agree with Mr Parr that the FM titles are incredibly cheapened -- I
speak as a player who earned the FM title the 'hard way'. It seems a
matter of urgency to limit the zonal to players above a certain strength,
not just those who can afford the entry fee and time off work BTW, Zhao
did have a performance over 2300 and beat an IM and FM and the strong New
Zealand former champion Kulashko, so it would be reasonable to award him
**The following complicated game was played quickly by 2 players with an
average rating of under 2000 Aus in the last round of the 1999 zonal.
[Event "Gold Coast Men's zt"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8.
Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. O-O-O Rc8 11. Bb3 Ne5 12. h4 h5 13. Bh6 Bxh6 14.
Qxh6 Rxc3 15. bxc3 Qc7 16. Kb1 Rc8 17. g4 a5 18. gxh5 a4 19. Bd5 Nxd5 20.
exd5 Qxc3 21. hxg6 fxg6 22. Rhg1 Bf5 23. Nxf5 Qxc2+ 24. Ka1 Qc3+ 25. Kb1
Qc2+ 26. Ka1 1/2-1/2
Here is the original:-
[White "Khalifman, Alexander"]
[Black "Savchenko, Stanislav"]
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 Nc6 8.
Qd2 O-O 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. h4 Ne5 11. Bb3 h5 12. O-O-O Rc8 13. Bh6 Bxh6 14.
Qxh6 Rxc3 15. bxc3 Qc7 16. Kb1 Rc8 17. g4 a5 18. gxh5 a4 19. Bd5 Nxd5 20.
exd5 Qxc3 21.hxg6 fxg6 22. Rhg1 Bf5 23. Nxf5 Qxc2+ 1/2-1/2 **
It's hard to prove pre-arrangement, but if it could be, then automatic
disqualification should result.
Having read Peter's comments on the zonal tournament, I have to agree with
many of the sentiments he is expressing. I do not fault the players who
participated from doing so, given that they were given an opportunity they
may not get again. On the other hand, with such a small zone as ours, how
is this problem to be solved for the future? I agree with Peter that - all
things being equal - it's much preferable to be in a larger zone (in the
past, we have found that all things have NOT been equal!). Is it
reasonable that for the next zonal the ACF could set a tight performance
criteria for the players before it will apply to FIDE for titles (eg. along
the lines of what our "first tier" titled players had to achieve for their
titles)? I don't think that would be an ideal solution myself, but faced
with organising a zonal tournament with as few member countries as ours,
this problem will surely be back with us next time? Setting a minimum
rating for entries would not be a bad thing either (!), but this will not
stop the flood of "soft titles" at each zonal. Given the standard title
rules (67% for IM and 50% for FM) there are simply not enough strong
players from the three countries combined for a zonal with several "hard
title" claims to be held - which is where I think Peter's reference to the
English zone as a comparator is grossly unfair. Personally, I believe the
tournament should be a Swiss (as they have always been) with as many
players as possible who meet the standards of entry for their particular
zone. All of which doesn't mean you can't hold a comparatively weak
zonal, provided you put in checks and balances to ensure reasonable title
claims after the event.
There has been a great deal of sound and fury circulating recently
regarding the IM and FM titles obtained by Australians at the 1999 Oceania
In a lengthy letter which appeared in last week's ACF Bulletin, Peter Parr
lamented that the FIDE Master title was being "de-valued" as "club
had earned the title at the recent Zonal Tournament. Interestingly, neither
of the two Australian FM's who participated in the Zonal complained about
the strength of the tournament, or about their titles being "de-valued."
By stating that "FIDE should, in my view, confirm the IM title" of Vladimir
Feldman, Parr leaves the obvious implication that the FIDE should not
confirm the IM titles of David Smerdon and Irena Feldman. I think most of
the Australian chess community would agree with me that it is entirely
inappropriate for Mr Parr to prescribe which new IM's "deserve" their title
and which do not. David and Irena both played very well and I would be
surprised if many people besides Mr Parr begrudged them their titles.
On a more personal level, Parr made veiled accusations of cheating against
Manuel Weeks, and myself, after our last round game quickly reached a
theoretical draw. I doubt if there is any evidence to support Parr's claim
that I breached "FIDE codes of ethics", and neither of the tournament
arbiters raised the issue with me. Certainly no one dared to raise absurd
accusations against Garry Kasparov after he forced a quick theoretical draw
against Kramnik at the recent Linares tournament.
To conclude, I would like to refer to the opinions of two chess players who
know considerably more about the game than most of us: GM Darryl Johansen
and FM Chris Depasquale. Upon being asked his opinion of the strength of
the Zonal, Chris replied that it was comparable to several Zonals he had
played in during his career, which invariably had representatives from the
weaker Asian nations. He added that most of the new FMs would obtain 2300+
ratings, and thus the FM title anyway, if they were playing overseas and
mixing more in the rating system.
I remember that several years ago, after agreeing a "grandmaster" draw with
my friend Michael Chow, I asked Darryl what he thought of such games.
Darryl said he didn't see anything unethical or unsportsmanlike about quick
draws, adding that players can agree to a draw whenever they want.
Actually, I don't think I'll bother applying for the FM title I earned at
the Zonal Tournament. However, I hasten to add that I take this decision
neither because I think the tournament was too weak, nor because I fear the
censure of an embittered minority of the chess community. As a junior, I
played in the Zonal tournament for experience and for recreation; things
which, in their obsession with titles and silly "FIDE regulations" certain
people seem to have forgotten about.
I always read the ACF bulletin with interest and I found Peter Parr's
comments on the Zonal particularly thought provoking. Although I did not
play in the Zonal I am one of those 1400 something club players to whom he
refers so I thought I might throw in my two bob's worth.
Let me describe where I stand in the tournament world. I am the first to
admit that when I am at the board I haven't got a clue. However I play a
handful of tournaments per year, shelling out my entry fee each time and
not winning a brass razoo. I have no complaint whatsoever about this. Why
should I win anything if I am not good enough? I play purely for enjoyment.
It's worth remembering that it is people such as myself who keep the whole
show ticking over. In the same way that there would be no movie stars if
it weren't for the general population shelling out at the box office.
Hence if you let club players into the Zonal with a substantial fee it is a
perfectly legitimate way of raising badly needed funds. Financial support
for players going to the Olympiad and overseas zonals in the past has been
very low, in some cases pitiful. If we can channel funds to such players
in this manner then lets go for it.
So lets be careful about how we treat the club players. Most, like myself,
have no illusions about our playing strength and are just happy with our
place in things. But tournament organisers and our top players need our
financial support. If organised chess becomes too elitist it risks biting
the hand that feeds it.
That said I do think that Peter Parr's comments on the devaluing of titles
are absolutely spot on. The rule that titles are available in Zonal's for
a fixed percentage score (with no reference whatsoever to ratings
performance) was surely only ever meant for a Zonal with strict entrance
criteria, never for one that was open to all and sundry. This is simply a
loophole which FIDE will close double quick if it has any sense.
Australian chess will gain no credit whatsoever by trying to exploit this
technicality. Also it would be a disaster if we lost one of our talented
players who has earned his/her title legitimately.
I don't pretend to be an expert on such matters but I do know that Peter
Parr is just that. With no disrespect to the players involved, the ACF
should, in the light of Mr. Parr's comments, reconsider some if not all of
the title applications.
So I wouldn't abandon the idea of open zonals all together. Why not give
poor deluded souls such as myself a shot at the big time? It is a brand
new source of income and if some of our top players get some airfares paid
this way then what is the problem? But please don't give away titles to
club players who score points from each other. This will shake the very
foundations of organised chess.
I'd like to add my two bob's worth on a couple of items raised in your ACF
Bulletin No 16.
As an arbiter I have been using Swis-Sys for many years, from Version 6
(Swiss60) up to Swiss96, all DOS versions, and now the Windows version
Swiss20. The program is excellent and, with the ACF2SWISS utility written
by Mike Finch to import player details from the ACF ratings file, has
served Queensland well. I have also tried Protos, which is FIDE-approved
and no doubt does the job, but its interface is far from user-friendly - I
cannot recommend it purely from that aspect.
At the Zonal on the Gold Coast, Gary Bekker and I trialed the untested
SwissPerfect 98 and Swiss20. SwissPerfect is an Australian product sold
world-wide as a FIDE-rules Swiss pairing program, while Swiss20 is a US
product based on USCF rules, with a new FIDE-rules option not available in
previous versions. The Zonal pairings were done manually, using the
once-ubiquitous pairing cards, and our pairings were then compared with
those generated by the two programs (Swiss20 set on FIDE rules).
SwissPerfect did a perfect job - in one case only did it produce a pairing
at variance with our manual pairings, in an anomalous situation where one
could argue either way. Swiss20 was way off the mark throughout; the
current version is not suitable for use in FIDE or FIDE-rated events.
SwissPerfect has my recommendation for use in normal Swiss events, for
accuracy as above and for the following features which suit Australian
1. Player details (name, rating, ACF ID number) can be imported direct
from the ACF masterfile - no conversion utility needed
2. ACF rating changes and performance ratings can be calculated instantly,
after keying in the requested variables (max-min rating differences, K
factor used). FIDE rating changes and performances are also available
3. The program generates a FIDE rating report for FIDE events.
That said, Swiss20 has team-event features lacking in SwissPerfect - it
generates pairings using team-sensitive or rostered-team criteria, making
it the preferred choice for the likes of interschool teams events. It also
generates a list of each round's pairings in alphabetical order, making
life much simpler when trying to get the right bums on the right seats in a
hurry with a field of 150-200 juniors, the norm in interschool Swiss events.
In summary, organisers should have SwissPerfect for individual tournaments
and Swiss20 for team events, until such time as SwissPerfect is upgraded to
accommodate team events.
ZONAL TITLES ETC
I read Peter Parr's article with more than passing interest. I tend to
agree that the Zonal results tend to cheapen the value of FM titles, which
is unfortunate, but who could have predicted that Johansen, Solomon and
Allen would have had performances they would rather forget. A field with a
minimum rating of say 2100+ would obviously have been preferable, but the
FIDE fee (Sfr 10,000 I think, but I could be wrong) had to be raised
somehow which led to the open format with high entry fees. Hopefully ACF
will be cashed up a little better in future years and be able to underwrite
The underlying problem is FIDE's, not ours. Our new zone needs to be
strengthened, which can only be done in the foreseeable future by
I would like to correct the error of fact in Peter's article, in which he
"I understand the SwissPerfect pairing program not approved by FIDE and
developed in Australia was used for pairings in the Zonal with the arbiter
over-riding the program in extreme cases.
If the program was used in round 7 it is my opinion it should not be used
again. 8 players were on 3 out of 6.
By far the two highest rated players were IMs Solomon and Wallace who
usually would play 2 lower rated players.
In the event Solomon and Wallace were paired and the 5 players on 3/6 who
were aiming for 50% all achieved their target."
Peter's understanding of the pairing methods used is misinformed - the
arbiters (Gary Bekker and I) used manual pairings first and foremost. The
computer programs were used to compare our results, only with a view to
testing their accuracy.
The pairings for round 7 were correct, even though the Solomon-Wallace
choice appears incongruous. After round 6 the following players, in seeding
order, were on 3 points:-
1 Solomon (due for Black)
2 Wallace (due W)
3 Levi (due W)
4 Reeves (due B)
5 Weeks (due W)
6 Saw (due W)
7 Dwyer (due B)
8 Szuveges (due B)
Without considering colours, the ideal next-round pairings were 1 v 5, 2 v
6, 3 v 7 and 4 v 8. Some pairings were not possible; in previous rounds
Solomon had played Weeks and Levi, Wallace had played Saw and Szuveges,
Reeves had played Weeks, Dwyer had played Szuveges.
To allow all players to receive their due colours (the overriding factor
under the current Swiss rules), we determined that the only possible
pairings were 1 v 2, 3 v 7, 6 v 4 and 5 v 8. SwissPerfect came up with the
same pairings; Swiss20 did not.
In this light, Peter's criticism of SwissPerfect is unjustified.
Have a good week!
President, Australian Chess Federation
C/- Somerset College, Somerset Drive, Mudgeeraba Q 4213
Phone 07 5530 3777 (w) 07 5530 5794 (h) Fax 07 5525 2676 (w)